Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off?

Whether you’re a skilled artist or you’re just starting to dabble in using paint, then you’ve probably experimented with acrylic paint before. It’s versatile, easy to find, and relatively affordable compared to other mediums.

One of the most common questions that I’ve gotten regarding acrylic paint, though, is whether or not it’s waterproof or if it washes off easily. 

If exposed to enough water, acrylic paint will wash off. Although acrylic paint is water-resistant it is not waterproof. The water could be from rain, washing painted fabrics in the laundry, or even just humidity in the air. 

Thankfully, though, there are a number of methods that you can employ to help waterproof your paint and prevent it from washing off. While this may not be necessary for a small painting that’s sitting in a dry environment, it’s essential if you’re painting things that are exposed to outdoor elements or fabrics you plan on throwing in the washing machine.

Below, I’m going to explain why acrylic paint washes off and what you can do to prevent it. 

Why Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off?

One of the biggest things that people forget when dealing with acrylic is that it’s a water-based paint. This means that the main liquid and compounds that help acrylic remain wet is water. This can be helpful if you accidentally spill the paint. As long as the paint is still wet, you can usually remove it using a damp rag. If you remember from science class, like dissolve like. This means water can dissolve water-based compounds, and oil can dissolve oil-based compounds. 

Acrylic paint dries far quicker than oil paint because the water in the paint evaporates quicker than in its oil-based counterpart. This, in turn, makes it more forgiving if you make a mistake. You simply need to wait 30 minutes for the paint to dry before painting over your mistake with a fresh coat. 

However, in other instances, acrylic’s proclivity to wash off fast can be problematic. For example, if you just painted an outdoor chair, the rain can come along and start washing it off the next day. Typically, once it dries, acrylic paint won’t wash off all in one go. Instead, it will slowly start to crack and chip, flaking off bit by bit. Ultimately, though, there will be little to no paint left on the surface. 

What About Outdoor Acrylic Paint? 

You may have come across outdoor acrylic paint at some point during your travels. Many first-time painters make the mistake of assuming that just because it’s an “outdoor paint,” that it’s also waterproof. Unfortunately, this is not the case (despite the misleading title of the paint). 

Outdoor acrylic paint does have added compounds to make it water-resistant. However, it’s not fully waterproof. It won’t have a problem standing up to a light shower or a bit of evening dew, but eventually, even outdoor-rated acrylic paint will crack and peel just like the regular version. 

Preventing Your Acrylic Paint From Washing Off (Waterproofing)

Thankfully, though, there are a number of different methods that you can employ to waterproof your acrylic project and keep it safe from the elements. In addition to keeping your art safe from water, these methods will also increase the overall integrity of your project. 

For one, they prevent air from coming into direct contact with the paint, which can often oxidize the paint and cause it to fade. Secondly, they can create a more durable surface that’s more resistant to everyday wear and tear (which is especially important if you’re painting furniture, clothing, or other projects that you plan on actively using or that you want to retain their value). 

Outdoor Art Projects

Of all the acrylic projects that you need to waterproof, outdoor art projects and furniture need the most waterproofing. Thankfully, this process is relatively easy and straightforward. All you need to do is apply a layer of varnish on top of the painted surface. 

Varnish is a clear liquid that can either be sprayed on or applied with a brush or sponge. It dries transparent, so you don’t have to worry about it affecting the color of your painted project. 

How Long Does Varnish Take To Dry? 

Varnish typically takes a full 24 hours to completely dry. This means that after you apply it, you’ll want to avoid touching your art or exposing it to the elements. 

How To Apply Varnish

The easiest way to apply varnish is with a spray can. This typically requires applying several coats back-to-back with a 5-minute interval in between passes. The other way you can apply varnish is with a sponge or a brush. If you hand-brush the varnish, just make sure that you coat the entire surface evenly with a thick coat. 

Should I Apply Varnish To Painted Canvas? 

Although it’s not necessary to apply varnish to a painted canvas, it can definitely help it stand the test of time. The varnish will prevent water, humidity, and even extreme heat from damaging the paint. 

Pottery and Ceramics

If you’ve recently painted some pottery with acrylic paint, then you will need to glaze it once the paint is dry. Applying glaze will allow you to use the ceramic as a food dish and allow it to hold liquids. 

How to Glaze Ceramics

Glazing ceramic is simple. After the paint dries, apply a generous layer of glaze to the painted surface. Then, place the coated ceramic in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the glaze is able to dry evenly. 

Clothing and Fabrics

Waterproofing acrylic that you’ve painted on fabric is especially important if you ever plan on washing the fabric. It will also make the fabric more durable, allowing you to sit on the painted surface without it peeling off. There are two steps to waterproofing acrylic-painted fabric. 

Painting With Fabric Medium

Your first step needs to be done before painting the fabric. You’ll need to mix a fabric medium (a clear, opaque liquid) with the acrylic paint. This will help the acrylic bond to the fabric and will make it more durable. 

Heat-Setting Painted Fabric

Once the acrylic is dry (after about 24 hours), you’ll need to heat-set the fabric using an iron. This improves the integrity of the painted fabric and ensures that it is both waterproof and durable. You can view our guide on heat-setting acrylic fabric [here].